Married couple Ed and Christine opened our Gender Matters conference in Pasadena last week; they spoke frankly about how Jesus and His Church were helping them to be good gifts to each other in light of fears and failures.
Healthy marriage is the foundation on which we as a community can call all persons to chastity—to rightful integration of our gender, as well as the self-control and confidence to offer ourselves to the other’s good. If Christian marriage falters, we as the Church have little authority to call persons fueled by LGBT+ fantasies to chastity.
How so? Today’s new freedom to change one’s gender or to seek to transcend gender altogether did not just appear out of nowhere. Perhaps it is sourced in our ‘no-fault’ divorce culture in which men and women sacrifice their children on the altar of broken vows, the snappy way we become one then tear ourselves from the other when things get rough. ‘Rough’ means disillusionment of many kinds—usually sourced in the perception that this one did not deliver the goods. So we move on. We create our own freedom distinct from Jesus’ stern warning that ‘what God has joined, let no-one tear apart’ (Matt. 19:6).
Today we employ ‘grace’ to give Christians the freedom to break vows and re-engage with sexier models as if God was giving them a ‘second chance.’ I marvel at our indiscriminate use of Scripture, our consumer mentality, our disregard for the spouse, and especially for the children of divorce who have no voice. In the wise words of Dr. Rebecca Morse: ‘We give adults every liberty they want then leave kids to take whatever these adults want to give them.’
We create our own freedom. On the fault-line of ‘no-fault’ divorce, a person with same-sex attraction creates his own ‘gay’ destiny; a woman seriously unhappy with her gender begins to transition to another ‘self.’ One false freedom does lead to another. And at our core, we know that our compromise chokes our witness of the goodness of God’s order—the Cross that enables us to stay true to what He asks of us and all of creation.
So we go back to the Source—Jesus and His effectual call to make our marriages work. A panel of 4 couples—two touched by good old traditional idolatry and two by same-sex idolatry shared incisively at our Living Waters Leadership Summit last weekend. They spoke joyfully of love and pain and the power of Christ to release them over and over to fulfill their vows. He is faithful to those who choose the other’s good. And who humbly enlist fellow members of Christ in order to do so. More than anything, we want Living Waters to strengthen chaste ‘gift-giving’ and so strengthen the whole Church to enjoy the freedom of God’s commands.
‘As long as it continues to be told, no story is ever wasted,’ opines a ‘gay’ Christian writer. Like many today, he feels compelled to testify of how Jesus confirms his intrinsically homosexual self as one expression of the good news.
Everyone has a story indeed. But not every story tells the truth of the Gospel. I contend that persons whose stories feature Jesus as the advocate of identities based on disordered desires distort the Gospel. However charming their speech and poignant their frustrations, these ones build on a fault-line that undermines the power of Christ and His Cross. When validated–published and platformed–by arms of Christianity that claim to be orthodox, these story-tellers become enemies of the Cross (Phil. 3:18).
To be sure, we all need the freedom to sort out our disintegrated lives with wise Christian friends and elders; we tell our stories in order to break down certain worldly assumptions and so become conformed to the Crucified. Jesus uses the little cross of our garbled confessions! He leads us through our crises in narrative, which are resolved only through death to the ‘selves’ we have cobbled together from feelings and worldly attachments.
In light of the Father’s marvelous love for us shining on the Cross and mediated through His community, we can exchange our rags for God who alone has power to establish our identities. We discover that we need not be slaves anymore to the world. He gives us the choice to lay down our ‘gay’ selves or any other LGBT+ aspiration and simply rest in Him who through Christ calls us His sons and daughters, men or a women made to reveal Him in our human dignity (Gal. 4:3-7).
We can choose not to lay them down. We can nurse ‘gay’ feelings and plateau on a kind of eloquent melancholy (self-pity?) that empowers the ‘gay’ self (Wesley Hill picks up where Henri Nouwen left off.) Or we can arise in the same power that raised Jesus from the dead. We died with Him, and need not worry about residual same-sex attraction. We are defined by the Father now, and therein resides His authority to restore us, His way. We are no longer tossed around by feelings. We are becoming conformed to Christ and His Cross. That is our commitment—a once and daily decision to pick up our little crosses in light of the one Cross that shelters us and makes a way for us. Always.
Only then can our stories reveal Jesus. I would dare to say that our stories are worth telling only if they reveal something about His Cross, and the joy of carrying our small ones into newness of life.
‘If no-one said “I die but I shall live” then there would be no hope for those who suffer. All suffering would be senseless, destructive pain; all grief would be the worldly sorrow that brings forth death. But we know people who have lived and suffered differently. There is a history of resurrections significant for others. A person’s resurrection is no personal privilege for one’s self alone. It contains within itself hope for all, hope for everything.’ Dorothy Soelle
Tragically, Inter Varsity Press, which published my books Strength in Weakness and Naked Surrender, is now celebrating ‘gay’ Christianity with a new book that shall remain nameless because it deserves no attention. Suffice to say it is written by a young man who claims to be ‘gay’, ‘Christian’, and ‘celibate’: whether he sexually acts out or not is beside the point–his legacy will be to promote an identity based on disordered desires which is divisive, dangerous for any young Christian seeking Jesus as the basis for his or her identity, and deceptive. The author claims to be a serious Biblicist while in truth he promotes a false anthropology based on the shifting sand of LGBT+ culture. The only sexual ‘ethnos’ that Scripture and Church tradition recognizes is male and female.
Why Inter Varsity Press would take seriously this travesty is beyond me. Reading the promotional materials that IVP and this young man put out made me laugh; the book sounds like a pre-teen girl sharing secrets from her diary. I quote: ‘Let’s make promises to each other….I’ll [the author] tell you how I lay in my bed in the middle of the night and whispered to myself words I’d whispered a thousand times since: “I’m gay.” Ugh. I think I saw the Lifetime movie.
Can’t we do better for a generation drunk on rainbow punch? How about the stern and splendid call of the Father upon sons and daughters whom He loves too much to let them slop around in identities that render them narcissistic and non-creative, dulled to the very purpose of their gendered selves? Please: I spent my university days listening to ‘gay’ Christians bemoan how misunderstood they were, and on the basis of their injury create a new people group founded on their desires, not Jesus Christ. I could not stomach it then and I certainly will not now.
Jesus died on the Cross to extinguish the power of sin in all of its forms, including the creature forging a ‘self’ out of disordered desires. And He lives to grant us new selves founded on that Cross and the new creation that issues from His reunion with the Father. St. Paul upheld the power of ‘the new creature’ to correct early church divides caused by persons holding onto old distinctions that leached the light from the Cross. ‘May I never boast except in the Cross through which the world has been crucified to me and I to the world…what counts is a new creation. Peace and mercy to all who follow this rule’ (Gal. 6: 14-16).
In his excellent new book Hope for the Same-Sex Attracted, Reformed Pastor Ron Citlau writes: ‘There are many areas where Scripture is silent but identity is not one of them.’ Catholic Dan Mattson deepens this thought in his new book which majors on sexual identity from a Christian perspective–Why I Don’t Call Myself Gay. ‘I’m not a gay man nor is any man. As Christians, called to be emissaries of His Word, we must say what things are again, and to give them the right names again, the names given them by God at the foundation of the world, reiterated by Jesus while He walked among us, incarnate as a man: ‘Have you not heard that He made them from the beginning as male and female?’ (Matt. 19:4)
Yes and amen. For the sake of a generation being tossed around by inane offerings from ‘gay’ Christians (and the stupid moves of publishers to platform them), let us hold fast to the truth of who people actually are, made in His image as male and female.
‘How pleasing it is when brothers and sisters live together in unity.’(PS 133:1)
We please Him. Maybe it’s because we realize that America is as much Mexico and Chile and Puerto Rico as it is the United States. Maybe it’s because we love marriage and treat it as holy, indissoluble, or because we have committed to growing beyond homosexuality and various addictions and abuses in order to become the good gifts we are. Or maybe He just loves us. Period. He showed His love for us by pouring out the oil of unity upon us as we gathered from the four corners of the Americas for our fifth Aguas Vivas Training in Cordoba Argentina last week. I have yet to experience such a diverse and ‘well-oiled’ team of leaders who gathered to offer their stories and gifts in love. Grateful for others’ gifts as well, we created a whole, united in our brokenness and the broken God who raises us up over and over again.
Miguel from Puerto Rico brought his two Pentecostal pastors and the woman he hopes to marry soon. He has become a mighty man of God since he joined us five years ago at our first training in Mexico City, a man divided by the ‘gay self’ yet desperately seeking Jesus. Five years later, he taught powerfully from his life experience about the gifts we can become for each other and for our churches.
Marie-Innes had been sexually and spiritually abused by a New Age leader which damaged her marriage to Daniel, a man struggling with same-sex attraction. After they became part of a dynamic Catholic community in Cordoba, the couple drank in ‘Living Waters’, which brought renewal to their marriage and a vision for their vocation as husband and wife. Along with awesome Father Adrian, they are raising up witnesses and healers throughout Argentina, several of whom shared brilliantly at the training (Griselda, Roxanna and Walter, you are the best!)
In 2001, I met Ruth, a pastor’s wife with a deep wound from her pastor/father and Ignacio who was seeking to overcome sexual addiction. In their brokenness before Jesus, they represented beautifully the Vineyard Churches in Chile. For nearly 15 years now, they have dug a deep well of Living Waters in Santiago; that was evident in the team they brought to the training to minister expertly to all. Gracias Carol and Alberto, and Ruth’s daughter Constanza whose worship leading broke open the fragrant oil Mary of Bethany offered to Jesus. We offered ourselves to Him, sweetly broken and grateful.
From Guadalajara Mexico came Father Ricardo, and Veronica who is growing out of same-sex dependency and into a calling to offer the gift of ‘Living Waters’ to Catholic young adults throughout Latin America. She is sharp and humble and loved by all. Father Ricardo is among our greatest gifts. Before he imparts his considerable priestly wisdom, he offers his humanity to us and like Pope Francis simply asks: ‘Pray for me.’ He receives Living Waters like dry ground and wants to ensure that his diocese is a deep, evident well of ‘Living Waters.’
From the Caribbean, to the Southern Cone of South America, then upwards to Mexico–Catholics, Pentecostals, and evangelicals entered the ‘Living Waters’ together in Cordoba under the sure leadership of North Americans Daniel Delgado and Ondine Morales (with special assist from our Kansas City treasure, Pamela). Undergirding the seven days was a team led by Anne in Canada that interceded daily and specifically for us; I believe their prayers guarded our graceful cohesion. Prayerful trust in His divine mercy forges a unity among us that pleases God’s heart. That unity overflows as a fountain throughout the Americas.
Why did I sign up in the first place? I’ve ridden thousands of miles on bike but have never raced, let alone raced at 7500 feet in the mountains with a 3000 foot incline over its 50-mile course. Such was the Tour of Big Bear CA that I bungled into last week.
We had gathered in that resort town for a family gathering—kids, Annette, and her side of the family who own a hotel there which sponsored the race. How hard could it be, I thought?
Maybe I was lulled into a false peace by my son Nick who tends to win most competitions. (Yes you heard it here; he places FIRST) As I observed him flying around Big Bear prepping for this race with removable pedals molded to shoes and those skin-like outfits, I woke up. At the midnight hour, I realized I knew next to nothing about racing. Nick kept giving me little tips like: ‘You probably need a bike with thinner tires’ (the bike secured for me was thick, with fat tires); ‘You cannot listen to music on a race’ (what, no worship music to drown out my fears? And apparently the roar of riders and cars on steep narrow mountain passes?); I did not even know where to secure my number on the bike.
On the morning of the race, I cobbled together a strange outfit more fitting for running (that’s what I know) than the sleek world of bike-racing. Combined with my fat bike, I felt like an alien, the kid from the country who transfers into your sixth grade class, hapless and eager. And scared. Then I thought: ‘Well, I am an alien. I am so outside my game.’ Then it got fun. ‘OK God, You love aliens. Check. You give strength to weak ones. Check. You won’t let me tumble down the mountain. Check…’ (I deleted actual tragedies from my memory bank.)
Well, some fear can be is a good thing. It drives you to God and empowers you to go where you might not otherwise. The race was on and I found my stride after about 90 minutes of, well, terror. The first part was exceedingly hard, way up and way down with tons of vehicles everywhere. I focused on a few people who traveled ahead of me: mostly Asian and Hispanic (cool CA diversity) who were responsive to my lame ‘looking good’ encouragements (supporting them was insurance against my free-fall). I noticed a couple of guys coming alongside their girls and supporting them in the climb. (Sexist maybe; I thought them noble.)
Anyway, as we rode back from Snow Valley to Big Bear, I loosened up enough to see the hills (they help us right, King David?), 8500 feet of help, something God uses to call us up and out of ourselves into marvels that fear might obscure forever. During the fourth and last hour of the race I began to jam, an alien with wings, grateful for the race.